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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Discussion With David Albright

Aired June 10, 2002 - 12:07   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well CNN is the only news organization that actually found dirty bomb documents in Afghanistan, as you heard David mention in his report.

Well joining us now from Washington is David Albright, who analyzed those documents. He is president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a nuclear proliferation watchdog organization. Thank you very much for your time this afternoon.

First of all, are you surprised to hear that there was someone here in the country here and it happened to be an American citizen involved in this kind of a plot?

DAVID ALBRIGHT, PRESIDENT, INSTITUTE FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY: I won't say I was surprised. Certainly concerned. I mean, if Al Qaeda was going to do an attack here, its use of U.S. citizens or people who could easily get into the country was almost a certainty.

HARRIS: How about -- give us an idea of considering that the fact that we're talking about a network of people, how many would you have to have together in some sort of conspiracy to actually pull something like this off, do you think?

ALBRIGHT: You don't need that many people to detonate a dirty bomb. It is not a very sophisticated device. If you can get the radioactive material, and can you get some high explosives and have some facility at using those high explosives, it can just require a few people.

You also need people to acquire the material, if it's not already in hand. You need people to scout out target. Prepare the way. So a handful of people can do this.

HARRIS: Do you think that there might be other plots that may be further along, more advanced than just the discussion stage, as we heard this was in?

ALBRIGHT: It's very hard to know. I mean, the pace of al Qaeda attacks is not that rapid. I mean, one every year or so. So this may be only one in the works.

HARRIS: Has any dirty bomb ever been detonated anywhere or is it just a theory at this particular point? ALBRIGHT: I don't think there's ever been an actual detonation of a dirty bomb, but there's been several radiological accidents that really provide the baseline on trying to understand what could happen in such an attack. I mean, a case in Brazil where a radioactive source was stolen and then the material got out, and in the end four people died, mostly children. And they spread the material by foot and hand.

HARRIS: You know I saw those documents just -- as a matter of fact, was just handling them about maybe an hour ago. The documents that we were talking about that were found in Afghanistan. And I want to ask you if after your examination of documents do you think that this was something that required, I don't know, abnormal amounts of intelligence -- or not just money, but actual intelligence to figure out how to do this sort of thing? Was this just some sort of plan that was just cooked up in a back room somewhere?

ALBRIGHT: It appears from theses documents that whatever al Qaeda was doing it would think it through. I mean, sometimes they were fairly ignorant or they made mistakes, but it appears that the group that was being trained in explosives -- kind of what we considered an advanced group. They had gone through the basic training and were, in a sense, in graduate school. That it was those people who would be looking at how to make a dirty bomb.

And one of the documents, while it doesn't explicitly talk about it, there is a design of what we viewed as a dirty bomb and not as a nuclear weapon.

HARRIS: OK. Explain the difference then if you can for us, in layman's terms.

ALBRIGHT: Well a dirty bomb is really just using explosives or some other means to disperse radioactive material. A nuclear weapons is you're actually trying to take special nuclear material called plutonium or highly enriched uranium and create a massive explosion using a nuclear reaction. And it's a -- a dirty bomb really is meant to disperse the radioactive material across an area to deny people the ability to get into that area.

A nuclear weapon is meant to destroy buildings and whole blocks and cause massive amounts of glass (ph) burn and radiation casualties.

HARRIS: Now physically, how large would this device be? Let's go by the documents that you actually examined. How big physically would that device be? Would this be something that would be hidden in a vehicle or something that would be delivered by some sort of a rocket or perhaps carried by a suicide bomber?

ALBRIGHT: The size depends on the type of radioactive material that's being used. If it's something like plutonium, it doesn't have to be very large. I mean, you don't need very much shielding. Most of the weight would be the explosives, so it could be 50 kilograms or even less.

If it's highly radioactive material, like CZM137, that emits very intense gamma rays, you're going to have to put lead around it. So it may be 100 kilograms with shielding, which you probably remove before you detonate it. But the bottom line is these things are not very big. They're much, much smaller than a nuclear explosive.

HARRIS: And that makes this news today even more unsettling. David Albright, thank you very much. We sure do appreciate your time and your insight this afternoon. And thank you for going over this document for us.

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